Myanmar has appointed a high-level committee to recommend reforms to its natural resource sector, a major step towards adopting global standards on governance of its extractive industries.
The Extractive Industry Transparency Initiative Leading Authority will be headed by Soe Thein, a minister in President Sein Thein’s office, and must report back by the end of 2013 on ways to improve the management and sustainability of  Myanmar’s natural resources, according to a government notice published on Dec 16.

The committee also was asked to develop a strong investment environment for natural resources and to foster public-private sector dialogue.

Myanmar is rich in precious gems, natural gas and timber, as well as hydro-electric power, resources that were used to enrich the military elite that governed the country for over three decades leaving the majority of its population in dire poverty.

As the South East Asian country opens up to democracy,  Myanmar has said it wants to sign the Extractive Industry Transparency Initiative (EITI), an international group that sets global standards for transparency of payments from natural resources in an effort to spread wealth among the 3.5 billion people who live in resource rich countries and to limit conflict and corruption.

The EITI called Myanmar’s decision to name a committee “an important milestone towards requiring transparency of its oil and gas revenues” and shows that it is taking the necessary steps to implement the global transparency standards.

Revenues from oil and gas already represent the largest source of the country’s foreign income, and the International Monetary Fund estimates that gas revenues will increase by 85 percent over the next three years.

Also named to the five-member EITI Leading Authority were Finance Minister Win Shein, Energy Minister Than Htay, Mines Minister Myint Aung and Environment Minister Win Tun.